Monday, July 23, 2012

A Cool Summer Dessert ~Caramel Espresso Floats

                                                            Caramel Espresso Float

This float was inspired by an Italian dessert Affogato Al  CaffĂ©, which consists of ice cream that has been “drowned” in hot coffee. I added caramelized sugar to the coffee for extra depth and topped it all off with a just enough  whipped cream, toasted nuts, and chocolate shavings.

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup instant-espresso powder*
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 4 generous scoops premium vanilla ice cream (from 1 pint)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate shavings (made with a vegetable peeler; from a 3-oz bar)

 Cook  granulated sugar in a dry 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Remove from heat and carefully add 1 cup water (caramel will harden and steam vigorously). Cook over high heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved, then remove pan from heat. Add espresso powder and stir until dissolved. Add remaining cup water and ice cubes and stir until espresso is cold.  Discard  remaining  ice cubes.

Beat cream with confectioner’s sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. Divide ice cream among 4 (8-ounce) glasses, then pour 1/2 cup espresso over each serving and top with whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Unusual and Beautiful, A Banana Flower Salad

A Banana Flower
Banana Flower Salad with Grilled Shrimp and Chicken
I learned to make this beautiful salad using banana flowers  in Thailand at the Blue Elephant Cooking School. I was doubly interested because we have a large  grove of bananas at home  in Kauai.  If you are not familiar with banana flowers, take a look at the top photo. This is what  banana flowers looks like. The inner leaves of this flower tastes like raw artichokes!

With each  new crop of bananas, down drops a big fat purple flower. The flower feeds the baby bananas until they are ready to pick.  I wait until the baby bananas start to fatten before I chop of the flower. Every time we have crop of bananas,  I make this incredible salad. This recipe is the Asian version of an Italian Raw Artichoke Salad.
Preparing the banana flower is the next step. Peel back all the purple leaves and discard the tiny developing bananas inside. When you get deep down into the center of the flower  pod, you will see the leaves change from deep purple to golden white. Now, you have the good stuff, in the core. I shred the leaves, as I peel back the layers, I also  taste much of them. If woody, keep peeling until it tastes like fresh baby artichoke. Soak the julienne banana flower in water and lemon juice, because they will  brown.

 When I  am in Los Angeles, I have ordered fresh banana flowers from the local markets.  If you can't find banana flowers, use raw artichoke heart. The Blue Elephant Cooking School recommended  raw cauliflower, if fresh artichokes are out of season. 

 The most unusual ingredient in my recipe is the Nam Prik Pla Sauce which is a jarred condiment. Nam Prik Pla is a smooth sauce of pulverized  peanuts, shrimp, shallots, sweetener, fish sauce and oil. The flavor is unique, there is no other substitution, at the moment! Nam Prik Pla, not so hard to find in Los Angeles. Go to Bangkok Market on Melrose Avenue. Nam Prik Pla , hard to find in Kauai! I was lucky to find a Thai restaurant on the island. I begged the owners for a jar, even tho I really needed just a few tablespoons.

The rest is easy, shred a peeled apple and add segments of  pommello or a pink grapefruit . Grill some shrimp and chicken, shred those. Make the dressing and  mix everything in a large bowl. Add lovely bits of cilantro and a little scallion for added flavor and some roasted peanuts,  almonds or macadamia nuts.

From the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant
Banana Flower Salad
(Yam Hua Pee)
Makes 4 Servings


2 Banana flower (can substitute shredded cauliflower or raw hearts of artichokes)
6 tablespoons  lemon juice
5 ounces  chicken thighs , grilled and  shredded
8 each large  prawns, cooked and coarsely chopped
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 pomello or a pink grapefruit, segments

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon dried shrimps, finely crushed
4 tablespoon  tamarind juice
1 tablespoon  fish sauce
8 tablespoons Palm sugar or brown sugar
4 teaspoons  Nam Prik Pha sauce -jarred
4 tablespoons  shredded coconut, unsweetened and toasted
4 tablespoons  coconut milk
4 tablespoons peanuts, roasted and finely crushed
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced

For the garnish:

12 shallots, finely sliced
½ cup vegetable oil for deep frying
4 hard boiled quail’s eggs


Cut the banana flower in half vertically. Remove the small, unripe bananas inside and discard. Slice the flowers horizontally into fine segments about 1 inch wide. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice to water, and then immerse them for 1 minute so that they remain white.

Mix together the palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice, lemon juice, and the Nam Prik Pha in the salad bowl. Mix together all the ingredients, except for the coconut milk and the peanuts, in a bowl. Toss until thoroughly combined. Add the coconut and peanuts last and toss lightly.

To make the golden fried shallot garnish, deep-fry the shallots in oil for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Set aside.

Remove the ingredients to a serving dish and sprinkle with golden fried shallots and boiled quail egg. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How to Cook Perfect Sunny Side Eggs

We discovered a new  farm stand  off the main road just a few miles from our home in Kilauea. The local farmers here in Kauai supply this farm stand with all sorts of vegetables, fruits, tropical flowers  and eggs.  The stand  is pretty and rustic at the same time. The owner, Setiva has  painted the shed with too many colors. This is where we find what's in season and a great place to shop for  local grown rambutans, egg fruit, chubby papaya's, avocado's, hands of bananas, golden pineapples, key limes and Meyers lemons. Everything is tree ripe, sweet and ready to eat.
Today, what charmed me the most was a brown paper sack filled with thirteen multi -colored eggs of all sizes. I put the sack of eggs in my purse and headed home to make breakfast.  Big brown eggs, a single tiny white egg and blue eggs. Move over Martha, Kauai has blue eggs too!

I figured out how to make sunny side up eggs with runny yolks and firm whites after all these years.
Put a knob of butter in a large non-stick skillet over a medium flame. When butter is melted,  crack the eggs in the pan and turn up the heat. when you hear the butter sizzle, and when you see the edges of the egg start to firm up, turn off the flame.  The eggs will look runny like in this picture. Don't worry, just let the eggs sit in the hot pan. The whites get firm and continue to cook while the yolks stay runny.


                       A Rustic Tomato and Avocado Omelette

Crack three eggs in a small bowl, with 3 tablespoons of grated cheese and 3tablespoons of diced tomatoes. Lightly mix everything together with a fork. Heat a small skillet with 1tablespoon of butter over a low flame, when butter melts and the pan is hot, add the egg mixture and let the eggs cook. Do not disturb them or try to flip the omelette. When the bottom of the omelette is well browned then gently flip the omelette in half and turn off the heat. Let it rest for a few minutes and serve.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Green Tea Martinis and Earl Grey Ice cream Cookies

Green Tea Martini

When we took the first sip of this martini we knew it was a winner!  This is a great drink,  its crisp, fresh and addictive, like most martinis. Green tea is full of antioxidants, so don’t feel bad if you have a few!

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup,  water
4 green tea bags
4 ounces  mandarin flavored vodka
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Cointreau or Triple Sec
Juice of one blood orange
ice cubes
orange twist for garnish

Place water in a small pot, when boiling, add the sugar and green tea bags. Turn off the heat and steep for 5 minutes. Let cool. Put the rest of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with the vodka, Cointreau or Triple Sec and some ice cubes. Shake well and strain into 2 Martini glasses. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Cool of Summer
With the long, hot days of summer quickly approaching it’s time to give the stove a rest, dust off  the blender and  wash down the grill. Just a few months ago, happiness was nesting indoors with the family and  cooking comfort foods like stews and soups.  

When the weather heats up, I’d rather be baking on the beach than tooling around the kitchen. Summer gets me yearning for tall icy fruity cocktails, breakfast smoothies, zesty barbeque basting sauces and easy recipes using summer produce.

The farm markets and produce stands on the islands are heaped with exotic fruits, vegetables and hardy herbs such as lemongrass, ginger, mint and basil. At home, our orchards and vegetable gardens are bursting with avocados, papaya, mangoes. The banana patch is loaded  with multiple bunches of bananas enough to feed a few neighborhoods. 

I recently made Banana Ice Cream using just frozen chunks of bananas which I processed in a champion juicer. It was soft and creamy, like a banana mousse. I took it a step further and stuffed the Banana Ice Cream between fresh homemade Earl Grey Tea cookies.  It was a yummy treat.

Homemade Fresh Banana Ice Cream (non dairy)

6 large bananas-peeled and sliced in large 1 inch chunks

Place bananas on a flat tray that will fit in your freezer compartment.  Cover with saran wrap and freeze overnight or until frozen.  Using a champion juicer, press the frozen bananas through the juicer, to extract a golden banana mousse ice cream.  Serve immediately. Makes 4 cups.

 Earl Gray Ice Cream Cookies
This cookie recipe was given to me by my good friend, Melinda. I love this cookie! It’s excellent, just sweet enough and really crispy. I triple the ingredients and store the dough in the fridge, ready for baking. They are especially yummy made into ice cream sandwiches using my Banana Ice Cream Recipe.

½ cup, granulated sugar
2 tablespoons, Earl Grey Tea
½ cup, butter unsalted
¼ teaspoons, Vanilla extract
½ teaspoon, water
1 cup, white flour                                                             
¼ teaspoon, salt
¼ teaspoon, baking soda
24 halved blanched almonds, garnish for cookie tops
Hawaiian Sea Salt - to sprinkle on top of cookies
2 Pints, Homemade Banana Ice Cream, see recipe above
Preheat oven to 350F. Grind sugar with tea in a coffee mill or blender until fine. Place butter in a medium bowl and whip with a hand mixer until softened. Add the vanilla and water and continue to beat for 1 minute. Add the ground sugar tea mixture and whip well to incorporate the sugar, about 3 minutes.  Add flour, salt and baking soda and mix until it forms a smooth dough.

Put cookie dough in a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and roll into a long cylinder, twist the ends of the paper. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

Cut cookies into ¼ inch thick and press a halved almond in the center of each cookie, lightly sprinkle with Hawaiian Sea Salt and bake on a lightly buttered cookie sheet for about till slightly puffed, 7 minutes.
Remove from oven, transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  Take two earl gray butter cookies, place a scoop of ice cream between the two cookies. Gently press together and serve.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Pineapple Rice Salad that got 83 hits

                                                         Poolside Pineapple Rice Salad

 Heidi Swanson, posted a recipe for Pineapple Rice Salad on her famous  blog "101 Cookbooks"  and got 83 hits! Now I'm thinking..." Is that my recipe"?
I created a Pineapple Rice Salad which  published  in Hawaiian Edible Islands Magazine. The blogger, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks found the recipe in the magazine.

Reading that my recipe garnered 83 hits on Heidi's blog was a turning point for me. The light went on. After a long break, I'm happily back to  working on my blog. (The past year was spent remodeling our home in Kauai. ) I love to write about food, my zen is cooking. The kitchen is where I am happy, relaxed and creative.

 Here is the recipe for the Pineapple Rice Salad which I created for summer entertaining. It tastes even better a few days later. Who would have ever thought this little recipe could make such an impact on me? Go figure.

Poolside Pineapple Rice Salad                                                      

4 cups brown rice or farro , black rice or quinoa, cooked

Pineapple Dressing
2 tablespoons, peanut oil
2 tablespoons, Chinese sesame oil
3/4 cup, orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
4 tablespoons, lite soy sauce
2 tablespoons, rice vinegar
1 cup crushed pineapple,drained or fresh ripe pineapple, diced  
Salt and pepper
Grated orange zest to taste
Hot chili oil to taste

Vegetables for the Salad
 1/4 cup scallions - sliced
1 1/2 cup celery - diced
1/2 red pepper - diced
8 ounces water chestnuts - diced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup currants
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 cups snow peas - blanched and sliced
1/3 cup toasted salted cashews - diced (optional)

Put the brown rice or grain of choice  in a large bowl.  Put  all the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Add the fresh vegetables to the rice and fold in the dressing. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate.

Makes 8 servings

Cooking At Rancho La Puerta

Students cooking La Cocina Que Canta at Rancho La Puerta
"The Kitchen That Sings"

It was a wonderful week of cooking at Rancho La Puerta, in Tecate Mexico.  I created 16 farm to table recipes to share with students that signed up for my cooking classes. Did I have the best time? Yes! Did I make new friends? Of course. Cooking together is magical.  Everyone bonds, strangers end up hugging each other after a 3 hour cooking class.

First, we gathered fresh organic fruits and vegetables from the vast  gardens at the ranch. Each group  tackled one recipe in the beautiful spacious kitchen: La Cocina Que Canta.  Denise Roa, the Director of the cooking school and her  assistants were ever so helpful. Fantastic! Patiently teaching some students knife skills on the side, answering cooking questions and getting whatever the students needed to make there dish perfect. I know they were busy, I clocked 25,000 steps on my odometer  which included a 2 mile sunrise hike and teaching 2 - 3 hour cooking classes that day.

 Some of the recipes included: Spring  Asparagus with a Hazelnut Crunch,  Lemon Rosemary scented  Cauliflower Tians, Roasted Sea-bass stuffed with  Macadamia nuts, Leeks and Mushrooms, Sweet Baby Carrots, Beets and spicy Arugula with Passion Truffle Goat Cheese, Baked Filo Eggrolls made with 10 different vegetables. These are just a few of the dishes we cooked.

 My spa desserts were the biggest hit of all. I demonstrated how to make the easiest Banana Ice Cream made with frozen bananas, without a spoon of dairy added. For the gluten-free students, we baked  a glorious Chocolate Banana Tart with a no- fuss  flour-less crust made with ground almonds and dates.

  I promised everyone that  signed up for the classes that we would 'Wine and Dine" and we did!

Asparagus Bundles with a Hazelnut Crunch
                                                 Makes 6 servings

 1 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
1  cup fresh parsley leaves, wash and dried
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or any oil
3 tablespoons vegetable stock
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and blanched
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 bundles fresh asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in ½. 

 Place the garlic, parsley and hazelnut oil in the bowl of a food processor and process till smooth, adding the vegetable stock if the mixture seems dry. Then add the hazelnuts and lemon juice and process till nuts are well incorporated. Set aside in a small bowl, add lemon zest and season with salt and white pepper.

 Heat water in a sautĂ© pan large enough to cook the asparagus, over a high flame, when boiling add the asparagus and cook asparagus till they turn bright green and are tender.

Drain the water from the pan, lower the flame, add the cherry tomatoes to the cooked asparagus and add the hazelnut mixture carefully stir to coat the asparagus stalks and let mixture cook a few minutes over a medium flame until to  warm.

Season with salt and white pepper and lemon juice if needed.